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The Storm in the Barn: 01/05/13

cover art

The graphic novel The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan is an American fantasy set during the worst of the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. It's 1937 and Jack Clark believes the answer to the drought is hiding in Talbot's abandoned barn.

The story brings together American history, a coming of age story and the fantasy of L. Frank Baum. Jack desperately wants to save his family and his town. His sister has dust pneumonia and is stuck in bed. She passes the time reading Ozma of Oz when she has the strength. As Jack tries to avoid the bullies, help his sister and save the town, he sees points of similarity in their situation in Baum's book.

The text is minimal, with the expansive artwork — either browns and grays or blues and grays telling the bulk of the story. Phelan creates a grand sense of scale, placing tiny Jack against the enormity of the dust storms.

Reviewers of the book either like the blending of Oz and the Dust Bowl, or they don't. As The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a chance for Dorothy to escape the humdrum gray life on a Kansas farm, Oz as a solution to the drought worked for me.

Five stars

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